Loboc’s Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
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In 1843, Loboc town was hit with the cholera epidemic. Many people died and in their grief and with a vestige of hope, the people turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary for help, thru the image of the Our Lady of Guadalupe. And the supplication of the Lobocanons was answered. The cholera epidemic lifted and the people were able to resume their daily occupations and get on with their lives.
Hence, and in thanksgiving, the Lobocanons celebrate the feast of the Blessed Virgin every 24th of May with all the revelry that they could muster. The event starts with the 9-day Novena Masses which end on the vesper day, with the gozos or praises to the Virgin rendered in Spanish or Visayan before the beginning of the daily mass.
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Following the Sunday schedule, several masses are offered during the feast day proper and the Pontifical Mass is usually scheduled at about 9am with, more often than not, the Bishop of the Diocese of Tagbilaran officiating accompanied by visiting priest-members of the diocese and those coming from other towns and cities of the Philippines. It is a well-attended affair, not only by the priest visitors but also by visiting nuns and government dignitaries.
On the 24th, the feast day itself, an activity called the “altares” is carried out just before the Pontifical Mass. Four small altars are set outside the four doors of the church with the image of the Virgin on each altar. Verses and the “Oremus” are chanted and hymns sung accompanied by the brass band and an orchestra. An example of the repertory would be - Altares 1 "Virgen sa Guadalupe" by Marcelo Varquez, Altares 2 "Bulahan" (Bendita), Altares 3 "Afectos" and Altares 4 "Maanyag nga inahan." These compositions are sung in Visayan in 2 or more voices.
Nightly activities are held way back on the 15th of May sponsored by the different religious and civic organizations of the town to add gaiety to the solemn 9-days consecutive Novena Masses held prior to the feast day.
Music and drama is an inherent part of the lives of every Lobocanon and is revealed by the people’s participation in cultural shows, choirs, bands and other groups. The now-famous Loboc Children’s Choir and other groups find time to perform their repertoire during these nights which adds joy and revelry to the occasion.
An important event that portrays the people’s great love for the Blessed Virgin is the Sambat or the fluvial parade that is held on the eve of the feast. For the occasion, a floating restaurant where the image of the Blessed Virgin will be enthroned is elaborately decorated with expenses reaching up to a hundred thousand pesos.
Band members, together with the Parish Priest and visiting dignitaries from the church and state, ride the floating vessel. Marches and procession music is played non-stop during the parade wherein the main vessel is followed by smaller boats likewise elegantly decorated with buntings and flowers. The event culminates with fireworks and more music making.
Another activity which lasts for three days starting from the feast day proper is known in Loboc as the Bolibongkingking Festival. The Bolibongkingking is a ritual devotion of dance and music commemorated in thanksgiving for the healing of the people during the cholera outbreak which was lifted due to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
During the festival, indigenous instruments are used such as the guimbao, the drum and the agong, the gong. The name Bolibongkingking was derived from the sound of the drum which goes “bolibong” and the sound of the gong which goes “kingking” thus Bolibongkingking.
The Bolibongkingking is also believed to be a healing ritual. With the mesmerizing beat of the drums and the gongs, the faithful dances and sways the different parts of their bodies that are aching in front of the image of the Blessed Virgin. Others do it in thanksgiving for graces granted thru the Virgin’s intercession. Often you will see old women with handkerchiefs held aloft, mothers with infants, men waving their arms and teenagers dancing with gusto. Others feel inhibited, especially the first timers, but in the long run become the best dancers, carried away by the mesmerizing rhythm and beat of the music.